2013-08-25

This is what I experienced in my first 24 hours of owning a ZTE Open running FireFoxOS.

The Unboxing

Seriously, do people really care about someone taking a product out of a box? I sure don't. Ha! well, here you go.

Well there it is. I used some crappy right-hander scissors to open the bag. While I was taking pictures, googlebutter stopped by and gave me a fuji apple. Then I plugged in the device and set it down on the dish rack to charge.

First Impression

Cool your jets, bub! Before I get into it, there needs to be a disclaimer

Disclaimer: Through out this semi-incoherent text rambling, I will be comparing my experience with the ZTE Open to my experience with the Nokia n900(which came out 4 years ago) and the so called Tizen "developer" device.

It should be noted, that Tizen is no longer making OS images for the Tizen device that I have. Twice, people have asked on the Tizen mailing list if there will ever be a new image for the device and there has not yet been a response. (yes, I was one of the people asking about new images). Nothing says "Community", like ignoring members of the community.

OK, on to the jibber jabber.

Starting the ZTE

When I first turned on the ZTE, a 'first run' wizard walked me through the steps of setting my timezone, date, time, and network info. Oh yea, it also asked me to sign into facebook, pfffttttt fuck that.

The UI for setting the timezone felt clunky. There was a map of the world where a selected timezone would highlight, but I couldn't use the actual map to click on my timezone. Since date and time were set after the network connection was set up, the ZTE was able to pull some time data from the internet, but I still needed to select the time widgets for them to auto-populate.

After getting up and running, the ZTE needed to download multiple system updates, and each update required a reboot of the device.

The Home screen

  1. swipe left to right and get a screen of apps available for download
  2. swipe right to left and get a screen (or two) of installed 'apps'
  3. do nothing and there is nothing to see other than the time and the quick launcher.

Unlike Tizen, the app icons on the 'home screen' can be rearranged and even removed. Unlike the n900, rearranging icons is neither easy nor very customizable. With the n900 I can put launchers where I want them to be. On the ZTE with FireFoxOS, the launchers are locked into a grid that fills from left to right, top to bottom. If you want all of your favorite apps on one screen, you are shit out of luck.

The Browser

Since FireFoxOS touts HTML5 as the future of mobile, I expect the browser to be top notch. I did notice a few things while using the browser:

  1. the HTML5 Range element renders as a text input, but instead of an onscreen keyboard when the input area is selected, the browser displays a numeric input screen.
  2. it isn't necessary to enter "http://" every time I enter a URL into the location bar. The last I checked, this was still necessary on Tizen.
  3. the HTML Select element, when clicked, will popup a list of all options within the element and requires clicking an "OK" button after an option has been selected.
  4. the HTML Input type='file' simply renders a text input field and does not open a file selection dialog when clicked. hella weak.
  5. When bookmarking a webpage, there is an option to "add to homescreen" which I would expect to add a shortcut to the devices homescreen. This should really be called the "add to the shitpile of installed apps screen" instead. What really bothers me about this, is that the favicon of the site isn't used as the launcher icon. When the launcher is added to the quick launch bar, the lack of a unique icon makes it impossible to determine which shortcut is which.
  6. When a javascript 'prompt()' occurs, the resulting prompt input field is not auto-selected and the keyboard isn't available yet. The user is forced to take the extra step of selecting the prompts input field before entering text. They should probably get rid of this is unnecessary step.

Other software

Aside from the browser, I have used the camera (which works, unlike Tizen) and the audio player (which is adequate but not very intuitive).

All things considered, this $80 device is far more usable than I thought it would be.

Comments
2013-08-25 timttmy:
I'm forcing myself to use it for a week as my primary phone in the quest to find the device to finally be the upgrade to my N900. After using it for a 3 days I've come to the conclusion that it;
A, needs a hardware keyboad.
B, needs some sort of VTE.
C, Would be nice to have a python interpretor.

Conclusion. Well it's a bit early in the week for conclusions, but It's not going to replace the n900 yet. Nothing can. It's hardware is so far outdated by newer devices it's just not funny and Android has some neat features, but there is still no device to replace it's sweet debian ass.

Ohh, the one awesome feature that firefox OS has by default is wifi/usb tethering, and it's the reason I had to buy the ZTE. I had previously bought a geeksphone keon, an almost identically speced device for tinkering with, but trials at work in a remote office went so well (long storey) the device is used to connect a laptop to the main office via VPN. I know other devices are capable of tethering, but firefox tethering remains enabled even after restart/reboot so makes it awesome for non-technical users.

Verdict: Awesome if used as a Mifi

-timttmy
2013-08-25 jezra:
Except for the lack of GNU tools and a terminal, and all of the other goodies I expect from a Linux system, the ZTE Open is close to a semi-decent replacement for the n900.

The n950 would probably be a decent replacement for the n900.
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